Welcome to the fifty-eighth issue of CEE News!
I woke up this morning with a knot in my stomach. I’m usually pretty good at compartmentalizing things that I cannot control and what is within my power to manage.
But, at 4:05 a.m., images were looping in my head of George Floyd begging for his life on Monday and the Minneapolis police station in flames three nights later. Images that show the worst of what can happen when we lack the kind of leadership that helps us navigate the path between chaos and control. Before sitting down to write this dispatch, I picked up where I’d left off in Leadership in Turbulent Times, the book I’ve been reading these days to find leadership inspiration and historical perspective. In the book, author Doris Kearns Goodwin profiles Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson.
I wrote last month about how Goodwin compared and contrasted the four presidents, and noted how their lives were marked by crucibles that shaped their leadership style. This morning, I opened the book to Chapter 9, Transformational Leadership. The chapter opens on March 4, 1861, the first day Abraham Lincoln took office. Goodwin writes, “the house was not merely divided; the house was on fire. Seven southern states had passed resolutions to secede from the Union in the four months between Lincoln’s election and his inauguration.”
It was against this backdrop that Lincoln helped the nation navigate the path between chaos and control. “His temperament was stamped with melancholy,” Goodwin writes, “but devoid of pessimism and brightened by wit.” Here are the 15 steps that Lincoln took to lead our divided country:
- Acknowledge when failed policies demand a change in direction
- Gather firsthand information, ask questions
- Find time and space in which to think
- Exhaust all possibility of compromise before imposing unilateral executive power
- Anticipate contending viewpoints
- Assume full responsibility for a pivotal decision
- Understand the emotional needs of each member of the team
- Refuse to let past resentments fester; transcend personal vendettas
- Set a standard of mutual respect and dignity; control anger
- Shield colleagues from blame
- Maintain perspective in the face of both accolades and abuse
- Find ways to cope with pressure, maintain balance, replenish energy
- Keep your word
- Know when to hold back, when to move forward
- Combine transactional and transformational leadership
My temperament today, too, is marked by melancholy. But, I find courage in the reminder that we can find our way back to the path through leadership that seeks to unify.